12 July 2010

South Africa: Hosts Count Their Gains as Cup Ends


Johannesburg — An impact assessment was being carried out yesterday as South Africans did the continent proud by hosting a hugely successful tournament that ended with a new name engraved beneath the golden trophy on Sunday night.

Everything went right for the hosts, save for the failure by the Bafana Bafana to make it past the first round on the month-long showcase.

And when Spain's Real Madrid goalkeeper Iker Casillas lifted the golden trophy from Fifa President Sepp Blatter and South Africa's head of State Jacob Zuma as the clock ticked towards midnight, South Africans were the big winners.

Crime was dealt with ruthlessly with the fast-track special World Cup courts expediting justice in a manner that welcomed clamour for them to be retained after the tournament.

The arrival of "tata" Nelson Mandela - who celebrates his 92nd birthday on "Mandela Day" this Friday - at a Soccer City Stadium jam-packed with 84,490 vuvuzela-blowing fans, was the icing on the cake for a brilliant competition that will leave a lasting legacy to the Rainbow nation.

Statistics made available at the weekend show that the World Cup added a half percentage point to the gross domestic product and it's expected that this year alone, the South African economy will grow by three percent.

Worrying reports

Some 373,000 visitors travelled to South Africa for the World Cup and with security bolstered, thankfully, there we no serious incidents of crime much to the chagrin of pessimists who at one point advised German footballers to move around this country in bullet-proof vests due to the wrist of encountering gun-totting criminals.

But South Africa will now have to sort out threats of renewed xenophobic attacks that have been planned from this week as World Cup tourists depart.

Already, there have been worrying reports of attacks against foreigners with The Star daily reporting yesterday that hundreds of foreigners in Cape Town had fled their homes and businesses for fear of the fresh attacks and are taking refuge at police stations.

There were reports also yesterday that five Zimbabweans had their shack burnt down at a settlement in Limpopo while in Cape Town, a Somali shopkeeper was shot twice in the stomach.

But despite the renewed tension, the World Cup was just the shot in the arm that South Africa's economy needed with the successful hosting of the showcase boosting business confidence here to its highest level in nine months.

The number of repeat visitors is expected to be high, thanks to the new confidence here, and the infrastructural development brought about by the tournament, including Africa's first high-speed train, the Gautrain, will push the economy here to levels difficult to achieve without the hosting of the tournament.

On the pitch, sentiment had it going for the Netherlands, playing in their third final, but at the end of the day, Spain were deserved winners in their first final.

Uruguay's indefatigable striker Diego Forlan was the right choice for the tournament's best player, while Germany's Thomas Mueller deserved the Golden Boot and Young Player of the Tournament awards he received.

And if there was to be a wooden spoon award for the best performance, I think English referee Howard Webb would be the automatic choice for messing up what would otherwise have been a more exciting final on Sunday night.

Now the preparation for Brazil 2014 begins in earnest and Kenyans hope the Harambee Stars and Football Kenya Limited will get their act together and give us reasons to be on the beaches of Rio de Janeiro in four years' time.

Well done, South Africa. You have done the continent proud. Now, bring on the Olympics!

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